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March 6, 2007

Microsoft starts slap fight with Google over book search

Posted by David Hunter at 2:39 PM ET.

It’s one of those inexplicable yet delicious occurrences that set the digerati buzzing (cf. Techmeme, Megite). Microsoft lawyer Thomas Rubin, apparently having nothing better to do, decided to publicly slap Google over Google Book Search while simultaneously touting Microsoft’s competitive endeavor, Windows Live Search Books.

Background: Both Google and Microsoft are scanning and indexing printed books for the Web. Both include out of copyright works and both also include copyrighted works where they have reached agreement with the publishers and either now share ad revenue with the publisher or provide purchase links (Google) or plan to in the future (Microsoft). Google, however, also provides what they feel to be “fair use” excerpts of copyrighted works even if they have not reached an agreement with the copyright holder. This has given rise to lawsuits from aggrieved publishers which are still in the courts.

Enter Thomas Rubin:

Microsoft is taking aim at Google Inc.’s rival book-scanning project, saying the search company “systematically violates copyright.”

In prepared remarks he is scheduled to deliver Tuesday to a publishing industry group, a Microsoft Corp. lawyer also said Google is cutting into the profits of authors and publishers.

“Companies that create no content of their own, and make money solely on the backs of other people’s content, are raking in billions through advertising revenue,” wrote Thomas C. Rubin, an associate general counsel at Microsoft, in the speech he planned to give at the annual meeting of the Association of American Publishers in New York.

Sounds like a description that could be applied to all Web search providers, or at least the successful ones. As Matthew Ingram notes, “This is almost a word-for-word transcription of the argument that gets trotted out by everyone from the World Newspaper Association to the Belgian agency Copiepresse…” What can Mr. Rubin be thinking?

“But Google’s track record of protecting copyrights in other parts of its business is weak at best,” wrote Rubin. “Anyone who visits YouTube, which Google purchased last year, will immediately recognize that it follows a similar cavalier approach to copyright.”

I guess we now know what really rankles, although Mr. Rubin apparently doesn’t spend much time at MSN Soapbox which has a similar problem.

The full text of Rubin’s remarks yields more of the same whining boosterism for Microsoft as the protector of copyright holders, but the real question is what purpose is served by this foolishness? Microsoft’s Don Dodge asks the same question on his personal blog and concludes it is all a lame attempt at generating good public relations. That’s about as favorable an interpretation as I can put on it too.

Filed under Coopetition, General Business, Google, MSN, MSN Soapbox, Microsoft, Public Relations, Windows Live, Windows Live Search Books, YouTube

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2 Responses to “Microsoft starts slap fight with Google over book search”

  1. Microsoft adds copyrighted books to Live Search Books beta -- Microsoft News Tracker Says:

    [...] Pardon the last part, but the point here is that Microsoft will only be indexing books from publishers who explicitly permit it, while Google will do that plus provide “fair use” excerpts from publishers with which they have no agreement. That stance has proven to be quite contentious with the publishers and Microsoft loves to hammer that nail publicly. I also have to note that Live Book Search is yet another Windows Live offering that has dropped the Windows part of the product name. [...]

  2. Microsoft pulls the plug on Live Search Books | Microsoft News Tracker Says:

    [...] Live Search Books was announced in October 2005 as MSN Book Search with considerable hoopla, plans to digitize the British Library, and verbal fisticuffs with Google over copyright and Google Book Search, but it has all come to nought as Microsoft’s Satya Nadella announced today: Today we informed our partners that we are ending the Live Search Books and Live Search Academic projects and that both sites will be taken down next week. Books and scholarly publications will continue to be integrated into our Search results, but not through separate indexes. [...]

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